Integrating the stepparent into the family is one of the most important tasks you will face as a stepfamily.
Your ability to do this successfully is about taking some time and not rushing it. If you are willing to take the time, this one area of patience from you will directly relate to the success of your marriage and your stepfamily. So while we talk about stepmothers more, stepfathers and their behavior equally hold the key.
Understanding and honoring the conflicts that stepfathers have about their new role is vital. This is why stepfamily education is so important for the new couple.
The effort you make as a stepdad to work through the discomfort in your new role will say and mean more to your wife and children than you can imagine. Be willing to be uncomfortable for several years in this role. This is one of the sacrifices you will make in your stepfamily life, but it is very important. Being willing to place your family’s benefit above your own personal feelings is crucial to being a successful stepfather.
Taking it slow with your stepchildren and supporting your wife’s parenting helps your wife, your marriage, your family, and ultimately… You.
The 3 Keys To Being A Successful Stepfather
Initially, the building of the stepparent-stepchild bond begins the day you get married. Yes, we know you may have been in your stepchild’s life for a longer time, but your commitment and marriage is what changes you from dating mother to being a family. Children generally have feelings of loss associated with the marriage of the biological parent and stepparent. This can cause further strain in the relationship between the stepparent and child. Even when stepfamily couples live together and then get married, there is often still a shift that most couples are surprised to experience by the stepchild.
So basically, when you get married, the stepparent-stepchild relationship is completely new. And you are starting from scratch. From this point, you slowly begin to build your relationship, no matter how long you were dating before marriage.
Have you fallen in love with a woman with children? Learn the tools to have a happy marriage and successful stepfamily by scheduling a free consultation today!
1. Don’t Rush To Be The Head Of The Family
If the shift for stepmoms is about being the center of the family, the struggle for the stepdad is his role as the head of the family. He can be the male head of the household, but his wife is the female head of the household.
Oftentimes, women who have been single parents are ready to let someone else be the head of the household. But in the same way that there can be no “instant Mom,” there can be no “instant Dad.”
According to James Bray (author of “Stepfamilies”), stepfathers often assume the active parenting role too early. And it’s usually with the wife’s encouragement; however, this leads to a trap of presuming unearned intimacy and authority.
Another misnomer is if the man is a great father to his own children, then he should step in and treat his stepchildren the same. Bray observed many stepchildren and stepfathers over a significant period of time and saw the same results. No matter how great of a dad you may be or what great paternal skills you exhibit, most kids will respond warily to you. They want you to be about as close to them as a coach or camp counselor.
Dr. Michael Popkin with Active Parenting Publishers stated, “Stepchildren don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” It will take longer for them to be able to be affectionate with you and to accept you as a parental authority.
2. Moving Forward In Your New Role
So what is a real man to do?
Dr. Popkin says to understand that there are two basic parts to parenting:
Successful stepfathers, as well as stepmothers, need to leave the disciplining to the biological parent.
But you can still provide support in big ways. How?
- Lower your expectations
- Expect rejection
And be glad if they do any more than reject you.
If you disagree with your wife, be careful and slow to anger. Also, remember to be respectful to her always. She’s been their mom longer than you’ve been the stepdad. Any changes that she makes in her parenting style will have to be gradual. Otherwise, you’ll still end up being the bad guy.
Recognize that your children and stepchildren each have their own developmental tasks. This is especially true of teenagers, so don’t take their rejection of you personally. They are trying to draw boundaries, be independent, and have developmental tasks all while being a part of one or more stepfamilies.
Additionally, know that it is not about you. As kids have become teenagers, the last thing they want is another parent. It’s not you. It’s just your situation.
Are you struggling in your role as a stepfather? We understand it can be difficult, but we can help. Schedule a free consultation today to learn the tools to navigate being a stepfather.
3. Be Cautious With Affection & Authority
Don’t presume affection or authority. Dr. Popkin says the foundation of a loving parent-child relationship is based on mutual respect. Make sure to treat your stepchildren with respect and courtesy in your tone, facial expressions, and words.
Encourage and show empathy. I know this can be hard when your stepchild is not being nice to you but do it anyway. After all, you are the grown-up.
Think of your role as being a “monitor” for your wife. Know what is going on, but don’t comment.
Keep educating yourself on the developmental tasks of your stepchildren. The more you know and understand, the better you will be able to deal with your role as their stepfather.
Pave Your Path To Becoming A Successful Stepfather With The Bridge Across
No one says becoming a stepfather is simple. But over time and with the right tools, it does get easier.
Our experience in marriage, divorce, single parenting, remarriage, and stepfamily life confirms that it is possible to keep the love and passion in your marriage while working through the challenges of stepfamily life.
Whether you are about to embark on your journey as a stepfather, are already in the thick of it, or need some advice here and there, we can help. Most clients leave the first appointment with tools that help them learn how to be a better partner, build strength as a couple, and improve communication.
If you’re ready to take the steps towards a happy marriage and stepfamily, schedule a free consultation today.